One Monkey over the line

The November monkey is all about borders – so how could I resist? There are two such crossings that bring back fond memories/vivid nightmares for me:
1. The summer I turned 15, my boyfriend’s family spent a week or so in Stowe (yes, it still exists when there’s no snow), and invited me to come down for the weekend. So my boyfriend, our buddy Dean, and I hopped in the car and drove from Quebec to Vermont.
We crossed the border at one of the little tiny crossings, where I guess they just have too much time on their hands.
Now, remember, we’re teenagers on a road trip. And Dean, in all seriousness, wanted to be a mortician when he grew up.* For some reason, Dean chose to pack most of his possessions for a weekend trip, stuffing it all into a rather large hockey bag.
So when the border guard asked us to take our bags out of the trunk, we collectively winced.
It took about five minutes for this guy to go through my bag and my boyfriend’s. He was much more methodical with Dean’s bag, in part because my boyfriend and I were dressed in shorts and t-shirts, whereas Dean was wearing black jeans and a trenchcoat with a large U2 lapel pin. At one point, he actually said “isn’t a U2 a kind of Russian submarine or something?” He went through that hockey bag with some weird determination to find something incriminating – he got very excited about the Hawaian lei, for instance. Eventually, he decided there was no real reason not to let us across, so he let us pack up our bags drive off…
without ever finding the weirdly modified German hunting knife with the lead ball on the handle that Dean decided to bring along, just in case.
2. When I was in my early twenties, my biological father was working as a flight instructor in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. After an unbelieavable amount of paperwork (including a fax that I had to bring to the corner store to have translated), I got a stamp in my passport allowing me to enter Saudi Arabia.
So that winter, I spent Christmas with my father’s family in Ireland, and then the two of us flew to Jeddah. Since he was technically crew, he had to go to a separate building to clear customs – which left me on my own to go through regular customs. Alone. And female. And very obviously Western.
Naturally, one would expect a problem. In fact, it was pretty easy – I think the customs agents were afraid to look in my bags in case they found naughty lingerie or something. Their primary concern was to determine without a doubt that there was, definitely, really, absolutely a MAN on the other side of the frosted glass doors who was willing to claim me, if they let me through. Which they did, eventually, to my great relief.
2a. The return trip was the real killer – because the flight was overbooked, our flight from Jeddah to New York was diverted to Paris to refuel, which made us late into New York, where I had to change airports to get my flight to Montreal. I barely made that flight, and arrived very tired, very airplaney, and very cranky at Dorval, where the customs guy started asking me all about the declarations on my reentry card.
I wish I knew how to recreate the look I must have given him, because he immediately stopped asking questions, bade me welcome home, and sent me on my way!
*Dean did, in fact, become a mortician.

Haiku 2

Last year I wrote a haiku, inspired by the autumn leaves on the road. This year, I give you the following:
One haiku per year
Is all I manage to squeeze
Out, damn syllable.

The battle of Good vs Evil

Good: the end of the semester is two weeks away.
Bad: I have a pile of marking to do – a pile that is steadily growing, no matter how many students I encourage to take extensions.
Good: the new furnace will be installed this Friday (and not this February, as the phone message we received last week indicated).
Bad: I spent the better part of the daylight hours on Saturday replacing the ballcock assembly in the toilet.
Good (bonus): I get to use the words ‘ballcock assembly’ and watch people struggle against the giggles.
Good: I had dinner with Maher Arar* last night. He was here to give a talk on ‘Human Rights in a Post-9/11 World’ – the Centennial Theatre was packed with students, profs, and locals (who I think I’ll take to calling ‘the Village People.’)
Bad: My inner sceptic is apparently dormant. Arar is a nice guy, and his story is terrifying. I’m finding it very difficult to approach his talk objectively and critically – perhaps it’s the cynic in me, more willing to believe evil on the part of the government – be it the Bush League, the Syrians, or our own Martinettes – than on the part of a nice guy (despite his background in engineering).
Good: Did I mention the end of the semester?
Bad: Did I mention the end of the semester?
So, when all is said and done, the math seems to indicate that Good is currently prevailing against Evil (except, of course, that this calculation requires math, which brings us back to a tie).
*The link above will take you to Arar’s site. You can also find loads of information about his case and related incidents elsewhere on the net, including the substantial coverage provided by the CBC.

Hey, where’d he go?

In response to “Why has Macbeth ‘almost forgot the taste of fear’?” one student wrote that the witches’ prophesies made Macbeth believe he was “invisible.”


According to a student essay I was marking yesterday, “a whooping 50%” of Americans support the pro-choice option.


So I took Friday off to be at home with the boys, both of whom had a Ped day. We decided to take advantage of the fact that I was home, and Dr. T arranged for the gas company, GazMet, to send a guy to clean the furnace. Our house is heated by radiators, with the water heated by a natural gas furnace. Our hot water is also gas-heated.
GazMet said the guy would be there anytime between 7 a.m. and noon – but assured Dr. T that the guy wouldn’t actually show up at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m.
Can you see it coming?
7 a.m. – GazMet service guy shows up to clean the furnace.
8* a.m. – Dr. T gets into my car, leaving me the other, child-seat-equipped car, and drives off to work.
8:02 – Dr. T drives over a nail.
8:10 – Dr. T comes home, having left the car in the Canadian Tire parking lot, figuring he’ll work from home for the morning and get the car sorted out midday.
8:30 – GazMet service guy presents us with a bill for about $145, for parts and labour, then tells us that the chimney is blocked, so he has turned off the gas. He tells us that GazMet won’t turn the gas back on until we’ve had a liner installed in the chimney. What he won’t tell us, on the other hand, is who to call to get a chimney liner installed on short notice.
*All times approximate

Continue reading “TGIFF”

The Power of Positive Blogging

I [heart] Bruce and Vicki Small.
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that a colleague had given me a Super 8 video camera. Bruce commented that my new camera was not such a great gift, given the cost of film, the hassle of set-up, and the nightmare of editing, especially compared to digital. I said “Yes, yes, all true – but I don’t have a digital video camera, and I’m not likely to have one handed to me anytime soon.”
So Bruce sent me his VHS camcorder.
Now, while I suspect this is all just a concerted effort to get me to make a public admission that not all Republicans are pure evil, I have to say I am overwhelmed, touched, and generally, well, overwhelmed, again.
Did I mention that the package included a telephoto lens, a wide-angle lens, the battery charger and the little, blinding light that sits on top? (Also, a small, dead Arizonan spider tucked away in the clock battery compartment, but I figure that’s probably a present for Heidi, not me:)
So, thank you, thank you, thank you. We will think of you every time we use the camera!